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Nutrition and Pain

Table of Contents

What we put into our bodies has the potential to do great harm or to heal. We’ve all heard the comparison that food is like medicine. All of us can benefit from eating a healthy, well balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and lean protein. A high fiber diet is also important for health. People with compromised health are strongly encouraged to eat right, avoid excessive alcohol use, quit smoking, get adequate rest and stay active.
People who suffer with chronic pain from illness or injury can benefit from eating well. This won’t resolve the condition or magically erase all pain, but some medical professionals believe it can ease some discomfort and possibly prevent an escalation of pain. Doctors suggest that patients avoid triggers that may increase pain. These include soda, red wine, coffee and tea, which are thought to promote inflammation. Dairy, wheat, eggs, meat and citrus may also negatively affect some people. High-fat meals that are laden with salt or sugar can promote inflammation, and a diet heavy in processed foods may not provide the nutrients needed to fuel the body.
Healthy fats are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are an example of healthy fat that can be found in flax seed, some cold-water fish, supplements, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Olive oil is also a healthy fat, along with rice bran oil, walnut oil and grape seed oil. Whole grains can also help to reduce inflammation and are high in fiber. Protein is needed by the body for building healthy tissue. Lean cuts of meat are a good source of protein, but some meat is high in saturated fat, which can have a negative impact on pain and inflammation. Other sources of protein include nuts, seeds, soy products and legumes.
Whole fruits and vegetables are so important for a healthy diet. While fruit and vegetable juices have nutritional merit, store-bought versions may be high in sugar or salt. Plus, it’s best to eat the whole fruit or vegetable because they are higher in fiber and processing can strip them of some precious nutrients. The pigments in brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain important, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and antioxidants. People striving for optimal health should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
People with chronic pain can become malnourished if there are problems with absorption, metabolic changes due to illness or decreased appetite due to illness or side effects from medication. Altering the diet is also important because chronic pain may lead to a slow down in activity, increasing the risk of obesity.

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